This Isn’t Easy, I’m Just Gonna Be Honest Here – Truths About Starting a Small Business

Here it is, I’m just gonna spill it…starting a small business is not easy. I know most of us know this, but it can be easy to forget given the dozens of adds we see on social media about building an empire overnight, growing your Instagram followers by 3,000 in a week, or funneling tons of traffic to your website with just a few simple steps. The truth is, it takes a lot of time and effort to be successful.

I decided to write this post in order to be a breath of fresh air, to be an encouragement to those of you who may just be embarking on your journey. Because when you don’t see numbers increasing while it seems like everyone else around you does, it can be discouraging. I just want to let you know that there are others out there who are experiencing the same things. But first a little background information.

I started blogging about 10 months ago and I would be lying if I said that I have been wildly successful. I have a hard time with consistency and even went without blogging for several months, which you can read about here. I started the blog shortly after opening an online boutique calledLydia & Lilac. This is in addition to being a full time behavior specialist for our school district, volunteering in youth ministry at our church, and being a wife and mother of 3 boys. Needless to say, we are a little busy, so I do what I can to prep and plan ahead of time and one day I may write about that when I figure it all out…lol.

We are constantly hearing about all the wonderful things about starting a blog or small business and it’s true, there are a lot of great things about both. However, there are hard times too and these shouldn’t be overlooked, because if you want to have any sort of success it’s gonna take a little elbow grease, or in my case a whole lotta elbow grease! So here are some truths about the struggle, it’s real.

Money…I’m supposed to make that right?

So here is something that has been true, at least for me. Because I was not just starting a blog, but also a boutique, there were start up costs. Now that our business is almost a year old, the truth is we haven’t made much and anything that we do has gone right back into the boutique. This has been fine for us because we don’t rely on money from our boutique. If we did, I’m sure I would be working a whole lot harder to make that happen. But even then, I’m not sure we would have made enough to live off of or anything like that. I’m not saying we never could, I’m just saying it takes a lot of time and effort and it doesn’t happen instantly for most.

Money…now your telling me I have to spend it?

In my case with the boutique I have found that we have to spend money on adds. At first I tried to get reach without them, but I was getting absolutely no traffic. Zero. None. Zilch. Even now I don’t get a whole lot, no where near where I need to be. This is mostly because I don’t spend a lot of money on adds, which in the end means less views.

You’re on all the time.

This is so true! Each day, every activity, any event, they always become an opportunity…am I wearing something from the boutique, will there be a good photo opportunity in the day, is this something I could blog about, did I make sure to check in with our followers on social media, did I make sure to post to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest? You see, there is opportunity every moment of the day and if you don’t take it, someone else will. For this reason I am still learning how to balance it all.

The creative juices are flowing, BUT.

There are many times during the week that ideas will just hit me, but I can’t do anything about it at the moment. Such is life, right? Raising a family, working, and volunteering, there are times that I cannot stop what I am doing to work on my business. During these times I make a lot of mental notes, lists on my phone, or grab a sticky note. Even this post was a result of list I put together on my phone.

Although there are struggles that come with starting a small business, I do have to say that it can be very rewarding too! When someone tells you how much they like your content, that they really related to your blog, or that they adore what you sell in your shop, it makes it all worth it!

Ways I’m Focusing On Mental Health in 2018

These days we are hearing a lot about mental health. It is a very important topic that should not be overlooked and is a topic near to my heart. For my 9 to 5 I work with a lot of individuals with needs in the area of mental health. For the purpose of this blog post, when I say mental health, I am not referring to mental illness but rather mental fatigue, stress, and clarity.

Way back in January, I made a commitment to focus on healthy living in 2018. Instead of making a resolution, I decided to pick a theme for the year instead. You can read that post here. Now, here we are in June and I have only gotten to my third topic. Sometimes things don’t go as planned, but that’s ok. I am getting back on track with my blog and starting with an area that I should have focused more on over the last several months.

Last week I posted about life getting insanely crazy in March and my struggle to stay afloat with my blog and boutique (read about this here). I thought discussing mental health may be a good place to start given the circumstances of life for me right now. Recently, I had a challenge presented that made me really evaluate what is important to me in life which in turn made me begin to think about what I need to be doing in order to think clearly about decisions I needed to make. As you will see, for me, mental health and spiritual health go hand in hand; however, I will be focusing a post solely on spiritual health in the future. You will see components of that throughout this post though. So here they are, ways I am focusing on metal health in 2018.

1. Remembering what’s important in my life

For me this is simple, my faith and my family are number one. Period. It is easy to get distracted with schedules and finances, but when it comes right down to it, as long as these 2 things are my focus, everything else falls into place. Things are not always easy, but focusing on the important things make it easier to get through challenges of life. It also brings things into perspective. Maybe I didn’t get to everything on my to do list today, but if I have spent my quiet time with the Lord and have taken care of my family, then I have done everything that is important and I can rest easy in that. There will be time tomorrow to get everything else done.

2. Staying in God’s Word and in Prayer

When I am in God’s Word and in prayer, the trials of this life are much easier to bear. I realize that I am not walking through this life alone and when I act like I am, my mental health suffers. I become overwhelmed and stressed out. When I adjust my focus back to the Lord and give Him my burdens, I am so relieved. This doesn’t mean that everything in life becomes fixed, but it does mean I no longer feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders.

3. Knowing when to say no

This is a challenge for me. I like to make people happy and I have a problem saying no when I am asked to take on more responsibility. I have learned the hard way that I can’t do it all. I am learning to go back to number one on my list when asked to do more. If what I am being asked to do will shift my focus from my top priorities or leave no time for them, I really need to consider saying no.

Sometimes this means saying no to things we consider good, like another Bible Study at church or an opportunity to make more money. Although there is nothing wrong with these things and they may even at time be beneficial, there are times when adding one more thing to an already packed schedule or working more hours and taking time away from my family will hinder rather than benefit my family.

4. Drink plenty of water and eat healthy

Boy, this is an area of my life that I have been really trying to work on and I will be discussing this topic more in depth in the future. Drinking water and eating health give my brain what it needs to think more clearly. When I am eating right, I don’t go through that mid afternoon fog and I have more energy to get everything done on my to do list. This in turn reduces my stress level as well, because things do not pile up and become overwhelming.

5. Decluttering my house

Clutter drives me crazy and my house has become way too cluttered over this last year. When I am unorganized I definitely feel more stress. Jerry and I have committed to decluttering and reorganizing this summer. We are also going to have a yard sale, which I agreed to reluctantly a few months ago. I am not a huge fan of the extra work and would rather just give stuff away. However, we are trying to pay off some bills, so Jerry and I agreed to give it a go. Now that we are getting closer, I am actually feeling really motivated and excited about it. The boys are on board too and are looking forward to selling some of their old toys, and being able to put the money they earn towards a new game they want.

6. Finding time to relax and do something I enjoy

This one is hard for me too. I have a really hard time relaxing. I used to think my parents were crazy when they would tell me this very same thing, but now I totally understand. I must have gotten the “gotta keep busy, not time to stop” gene from them. Although this is an incredible blessing most of the time, I need to make myself stop on occasion. Even when watching t.v. or a movie at home, I find myself getting up to do things around the house. We always have so much going on and I feel like I need to be working on something all the time.

I am trying to make more of a conscious effort to do a little something I relaxing each week like going for a walk in the evening, reading a book, or writing. Another thing I started doing once every couple moths is getting a facial. Originally I started getting them because I was having a lot of difficulty with acne, but I really enjoy them and look forward to that hour of doing absolutely nothing. This is good for me because I literally have to slow down for a few moments, there is no laundry to do or dinner to cook while I am getting a facial. So it’s beneficial for multiple reasons.

What are things you do to improve your own mental health?

Ways We’re focusing on the Health of Our Marriage in 2018

You may have read my blog post on my theme for 2018. If you haven’t, you can read it here! This year, I’m focusing on healthy living. This goes beyond just physical health (although there is a place for this and I will have a blog post on this topic later) and reaches into spiritual and emotional health, finances, and relationships.

Each month I am focusing on one area and sharing what we are doing with you (you can read about our January topic here). Originally I was going to focus on physical health this month, but with our wedding anniversary and Valentine’s Day around the corner, I thought it would be fun to cover marriage instead.

My husband is one of my most treasured gifts here on this earth. I am so thankful that I get to experience life with him and raise our precious boys with him.

I grew up in a loving home with a beautiful example of marriage. There was never a doubt in my mind growing up that I wanted to be married some day. I never dreamt that at 12 I had already met my future husband! We of course did not get married until much later, but more about our story another time.

Today we are looking at some things that can contribute to the health of marriage. We won’t be delving in very deep on this post. However, in the future I would really like to take a closer look at the topic of marriage. I am just giving a brief overview of things Jerry and I will be working on throughout the year.

Spending time in God’s Word separately…and together

Spending time in the Word of God is essential to marriage. The only way to know how to love unconditionally, is to see the example set forth for us by Christ.

Trust me on this, there have been many times that Jerry and I thought we knew what unconditional love was, but were very much loving conditionally. Unfortunately this caused heartache, it it also taught us that in order to protect our marriage and keep it healthy we have got to be in the Word. If not, we are susceptible to the lies of this world.

We have to remember to be in scripture, not just individually, but also together. This can be challenging with busy schedules and although I would love to say that we do this every day, that would not be true. Right now we plan to set aside a time to do this weekly.

In the past, we have done different studies together that are marriage centered. This has always brought us closer together and we can both say that we thoroughly enjoyed them. We just need to get better about committing to time in the Word together.

I love that I get to share what God is teaching me with my best friend and I love that we are able to encourage each other!

This quote is beautiful! Yes, a happy marriage is a wonderful thing, but if you are both focused on having a holy marriage, joy takes residence deep in your soul and everything else seems to fall into place. No matter the circumstances that surround you, seeking a godly marriage gives you joy, peace, and strength that we could never get from seeking happiness alone.

Spending time in prayer separately…and together

Just as important as being in the Word is fostering our relationship with God through prayer. Prayer brings peace, encouragement, strength, and healing. Prayer gives us direct access to our Creator and it is through prayer that we commune and fellowship with Him.

There is nothing better than coming together with your spouse in prayer. One of my absolute favorite things is praying with my husband.

When we pray together, I feel security and peace like no other. Scripture even states that God is in our midst when two or more are gathered together in prayer (Matthew 18:20). How beautiful!

Spending time doing things together

Jerry and I love to be outdoors! We love hiking, going for bike rides, spending days at the beach, and kayaking. We also love simple things like getting coffee or going to the bookstore together.

The truth is that we did a fantastic job of setting aside time to do these together in 2016, but in 2017 we were so busy that we didn’t make this the priority that we should have.

We are committing to set aside time to do these things we enjoy together in 2018.

Spending time with our boys

As I said before, we love being outdoors. We also love to take our boys along with us on our adventures! It is important to not just set aside time to do things together as husband and wife, but also as a family. You see out of this beautiful love story of ours, we were given even more to love, our 3 precious boys!

There are seasons in life and there will be a day where it is just the two of us, but right now we are in the season of parenting children. This means that although we do get a little time to ourselves on occasion, most of our time is spent together as a family unit, which is just as God intended!

It is during these moments that we teach our sons about marriage, that we model a godly marriage for them. It is during these times that our boys learn about being a husband and father. It is during the time that we spend together that the greatest life lessons are learned.

Ways We’re Making Our Finances Healthy

This year, instead of making a resolution for the the new year, I decided to choose a theme. You can read more about this here. Because my theme for the year is healthy living, I would like to dedicate a post each month on what I am working on and how it relates to my theme. This month, Jerry and are really looking closer at our finances. We have some bills we need to pay off and we need to find ways to save money. These are some of these things we are focusing on to get our finances healthy and they have already been paying off. We are hoping some of these tips will be helpful to you as well. If you have any other ideas for us, please comment! Let’s get started Lovelies.

1. Taking my calculator to the grocery store.

Talk about a wake up call! When I am not calculating what I am spending at the grocery store, it is so easy to just throw any and everything in the cart. Before I know it, I have spent way more than I intended too. Just this simple strategy has been a huge help. Knowing exactly how much I am spending and how close I am to my budget helps deter me from overspending and adding all those little extra things that I don’t really need.

2. Eating out only once a week.

I love to eat out, I’ll admit it. With both of us in grad school, parenting, and our commitments to church, we have been eating out or getting take out way to much. Plus eating out with a family of 5 costs a fortune! Especially when 2 of our boys eat as much as grown men! Fortunately, I finished up my 2nd masters in December and Jerry will be finished with his this summer! So there has been some relief for our busy schedules, with more in the near future. By committing to eating out only once a week, we are saving a lot of money.

3. Making our lattes at home.

On top of my terrible eating out addiction, I have a coffee addiction too. A $4 latte everyday really begins to add up. For Christmas I received a little stove top espresso maker, which I love! (This is the one I got The Original Bialetti Moka Express Made in Italy 3-Cup Stovetop Espresso Maker with Patented Valve) This has made making lattes at home simple and fun. I have been experimenting with different syrups and have also started watching videos on how to do latte art. So I’m saving money and having fun with this one!

4. Finding free ways to have fun.

We have had Disney passes for the last two years, which we have thoroughly enjoyed. However, we realize that in order to save money, the passes need to go. Instead we are looking for ways to have fun for free (or at least for very little). We love to be outdoors, so we are looking forward to going to parks , kayaking, and going to local events that cost little to no money.

5. Getting creative with things we already have around the house.

Finally, we are looking at ways we can reuse and repurpose things we already have around the house. For example, we are looking at repurposing some old wood to be make backdrops for product photography.

6. Keeping our bills organized with a notebook.

For this one, I have to give my mom the credit. When Jerry and I first got married, my mom showed me how she kept track of the bills with a notebook. This way she knew exactly what was coming in and what was going out. Over the years with online banking, I got away from this. However, I realize how important it is to keep better track, so I dusted off my notebook and am using it again! This has helped give me a better picture of our finances as a whole and I plan to continue to use this method for years to come!

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. Please understand that I have experienced all of these products, and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something through my links. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals. Many times people ask me which products I use and where they can be purchased. I find supplying links to these products is helpful to those of you who may wish to purchase them for yourselves.

My Theme for 2018

The idea of creating a theme for the new year instead of a resolution is one that has been popping up all over the blogging community. I first read an article on this several weeks ago and thought to myself, “sounds interesting.” You can read the first blog I read about themes for the new year over at joi-knows-how.com. I have never been one to really make New Years resolutions. It’s not that I’m against them or anything (unlike my husband who made a resolution to not have New Years resolutions anymore and he has stuck to it ever since! LOL), but I just don’t really stick with them. Instead I find myself creating goals, getting myself in check, and reflecting throughout the year. This is why the thought of a theme is so alluring.

You may be wondering to yourself what exactly I’m talking about. You are not alone in this. I didn’t really get the whole theme idea at first either. Basically a theme for the upcoming year means choosing an area of focus and incorporating changes into your life that build upon that focus. For example some of the themes floating around out there focus on self care, financial freedom, or health. Those who are choosing themes are not creating goals per say, but rather incorporating many things into their daily lives that represent their theme. Let’s delve a little deeper by taking a closer look at my theme for this year, healthy living.

I’m choosing this theme because it literally encompasses all aspects of my life physically, spiritually, and mentally. 2017 has been an absolute whirlwind in which all things healthy have fallen to the wayside. Truth is I’ve been so busy trying to get through each day that surviving became my only focus. This probably has a lot to do with finishing up my second masters degree, launching a business, and starting a blog all the while keeping up with my other commitments and responsibilities. Now that I’m finished with my degree I hope to have more time to focus on other areas of my life. This year I don’t want to just survive, I want to grow and thrive!

By focusing on healthy living, I’m not just talking about eating well and exercising (although this will be a part of my theme for this year as well). For me getting healthy goes beyond this, I want healthy living to seep into everything I do. I’m going to take a closer look at getting our finances on track, spending more time in God’s Word, reading a book (or 2), writing, getting more rest, drinking more water, spending more time investing in my relationships, and the list could go on! See, by choosing a theme instead of a resolution, I can concentrate on so much more. I will feel successful any time I do something that incorporates my theme. With a theme for the new year, success doesn’t come at the end when I check off the boxes, success comes each time I take a step in the right direction! How bout you? Are you making a resolution or going with a theme this year?

Happy New Year!

Why I Struggle to Blog Consistently and How I’m Going To Change That!

Blogging is something that I have absolutely grown to love over the recent months. I’m just having one small problem…I’m not consistent. Honestly it’s not a small problem, it’s a HUGE problem, especially when starting a business in which I’m getting little traffic. Which is unfortunate, because lydiaandlilac.com has so many amazing things! I realize I need to boost my SEO and one of the best ways to do that is through my blog. So, why am I not consistent and what am I going to do about it? Read on to find out my friend!

The reason I have such a difficult time being consistent is time. I know many of you can relate! I honestly have so many ideas, so many things I want to share. I just don’t always have the time to get my thoughts down. I have several things that I am putting into practice to become more consistent with my blogging. Here’s my list:

1. Set a goal to get at least one blog post in each week.

I know I should probably be blogging more than this, but right now this is something I know I can achieve. At this point in my life more than ever, I need to make sure the goals I set are achievable. If not, I have a really hard time sticking with them.

2. Take advantage of my phone.

So, I purchased my first iPhone this summer. (I know, welcome to the 21st Century Michelle!) I do my best thinking when I’m in the car driving, so I’m taking advantage of my phone’s ability to create lists for me. This way I have a list of blogging ideas that I can refer back to later.

3. Remember that it’s ok to have short posts.

When I first started blogging, I thought that I needed longer posts. Since then I have learned it’s about quality not quantity. Honestly, sometimes less is more!

4. Create a schedule.

Ok, so I have my goal and I have my list of ideas. Another way to help me stick with it, is to have my post ideas scheduled out. This reduces time I spend mulling over what I want to write about each week. There are still times I may feel like writing due to emotion or something that has just happened, but there are also times that I’m really tired and the less decisions I have to make in those moments, the better.

5. Have fun!

Most importantly, I need to remember not to put so much pressure on myself. I tend to be really hard on myself, which is something I have been trying to work on. My recent motto has become, “Michelle, you are only one person.” I have so much going on and I need to remember that I started blogging as a creative outlet, not to add more stress to my life.

Do you have other ideas about how to become a more consistent blogger? Please share!

The Reasons Why I’m Shopping Small this Christmas and Why You Should Too!

I love shopping for others during the holidays. Giving gifts is a way to show someone else that you care for them. And yes, I will be dressing in my Christmas attire, heading out during the wee hours of the morning on Black Friday, and checking off a few of my boxes on my Christmas list. After all, shopping Black Friday has become a tradition for the girls in my family. However, this year I will be shopping small as much as I can! Why, you ask? Read on to find out my friend!

I get to support someone’s dream. You see, each small business represents someone dream. There is always a person, a family, a story behind each one. Our family loves these stories! We love that each time we make a purchase from the small shops we have grown to love, we are supporting someone’s dream and helping it become a reality! What a fantastic feeling!

You find unique items you can’t find anywhere else. Of course there will Buzz-Saw Louie at every store and everyone you know will be getting one (yes that is a Veggie Tales reference! If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can click here.), but what about giving something different for a change? My sister is the best gift giver ever! She always finds something thoughtful and unique. I have learned so much from her over the years and have really been trying to put more thought into what I give. You know, not just giving to give. Shopping small gives me options for gift giving that I simply can’t get in department stores.

I can finally find something for the difficult ones. Let’s face it, some people are just hard to shop for. Because small businesses have unique products, I’m able to find something for those who want things in even the most unique niche.

Many small businesses are now located online. Honestly, a lot of the small businesses I will be buying from this year are online. This is great for me, because I cannot stand the traffic this time of year! Shopping online means I don’t have to worry about traffic at all. In fact I’m able to do most of my shopping after my boys are tucked snuggly in their beds and from the comfort of my couch. Score!

There are so many reasons to shop small this holiday season and we only scratched the surface. If your looking for gifts for her this year, check out lydiaandlilac.com today! What are some of your reasons for shopping small this year?